As the outcome of a heavily debated public hearing on Thursday, Victoria City councillors voted 6-1 in support of converting Mount Edwards Court into a social housing facility – even though it is located right next to an elementary school.
The idea was first proposed by the Victoria Cool Aid Society, after the building had started being used as a transitional home for the inhabitants of last year’s tent city – the same tent city that had sprung up on the courthouse lawn in 2016, causing widespread debate and discussion about Victoria’s poverty and housing crisis.
The project would be able to house up to 93 people, in 78 units of supportive housing.
Thursday’s meeting included the opinions of residents in the vicinity of Mount Edwards Court, as well as the faculty and parents of students attending Christ Church Cathedral School.
Residents will be screened for a history of violence
People opposed to the project voiced safety concerns over the prospects of substance abuse and violence occurring in such close quarters of an elementary school.
But they were assured that the housing is meant for people over 50 who have been screened for a violent history, and are either not addicted to drugs, or are on the road to recovery.
The facility promises to be staffed around the clock and is not a “low-barrier shelter” (one that allows drug and alcohol use).
Mayor Lisa Helps stated that the proposal was made with the school’s concerns in mind, and therefore will not be “low-barrier” as originally planned.
“For me, this is not a trade-off between a school and a seniors facility. It’s not that at all. Both can coexist,” she added.